Retreats

Girls’ Retreat

A few years ago we were dealing with some issues among the young ladies of our group. I felt the Lord lay it on my heart to have a weekend retreat just for them. It didn’t actually take place until a year later, but it turned out great. We’ve had a total of three retreats so far and the girls are already looking forward to this year’s retreat.

There are three goals for the retreat: strengthen relationships between the girls, strengthen relationships between the girls and the female members of the student staff, teach and talk openly about issues that young ladies deal with.

I’ve tried something different on each retreat. Here’s what seems to work best with our group.

1. Stay in a lodge large enough to house your entire group. If you have to limit the number of participants then do so. It’s difficult to achieve unity and develop relationships when everyone is divided into hotel rooms and there is not a central place to hang out.

2. If you have a problem with cliques within the group plan an activity that splits them up and encourages them to meet others. It can be an icebreaker or a game that focuses on teamwork. If you stay in hotels or a lodge that has several bedrooms, put the members of a clique in separate rooms with people they don’t know very well. (But don’t reveal the rooming list until you arrive at your destination – it will save a lot of headaches!)

4. Don’t try to cram too much into the weekend. The format that seems to work best for us is 3 teaching sessions (or 2 sessions and a devotional prior to departure), one fun activity outside of the lodge and adequate free-time to play cards, games, etc.

5. Unless the girls are out of school on Friday, try to stay within two hours of home. This is precious time – you don’t want to eat it up with a long drive.

6. Use chaperones that you can trust and that the students feel comfortable with. You may have young ladies that share very personal and confidential things. Be sure your chaperones are trustworthy. I have used parents as chaperones, but only in cases that I knew their daughters and the other teens would not be hindered by their presence.

We try to choose topics that the girls seem to be dealing with at the time. Two years ago the topics were relationships (dating and friendships), modesty, and self-image. Last year’s topics were having a strong foundation and finding God’s purpose for your life.

With the right planning and preparation and lots of prayer you can have a powerful weekend that truly impacts the lives of the participants.

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Waiting in the Wings Retreat

Last year we had this retreat and everyone had a great time!

“Waiting in the Wings” referred to waiting off stage for our time or our purpose. So, we did all the extra things with a Hollywood Theme.

First, the study for the weekend talked about preparing for the part of a lifetime and waiting for God’s cue to be utilized. For a great story to use with this, email me.

Everything we sent out for registration, was a “casting call” theme. When people arrived we had a “Guard” at the entrance of the retreat location, checking folks in and handing them “VIP – Back Stage Passes” (Name Tags)and then letting them out of the cars at a red carpet entrance (Really a taped down red plastic table cloth).

The red carpet was occasionally had cardboard cut out celebrities and beind them we had hidden Paparazzi who popped out and took photos of them. Quickly, everyone caught on and started playing the part of celebrity.

Later during the retreat they would find their assigned beds each contained an “personalized and autographed” celebrity headshot on their bed. Each room was named for a different movie, ie Kitchen – Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Bathroom – Gone with the Wind, All girls room – Steel Magnolia’s, etc. . . Each prayer group was also named for a TV Show (Gilligan’s Island, Friends, The Beverly Hill Billies, etc.) and on Saturday Night each group sang their “Theme Song” for a Kareoke Contest.

We also had a hallway that was converted to Hollywood’s famous “Walk of Fame” where each person could find their name on a star. Folded down each bed at night with a chocolate mint on their pillow, gave everyone sunglasses and the girls had feather boa’s.

By the end of the weekend, not only did everyone feel pampered and treated to “Star” treatment but they were confident about who Christ had created them to become and were content with “Waiting in the Wings” until God directed them to take the stage.

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Strength Test

On a recent youth retreat, each kid was given three large nails (about 8″). They were to stand with one in each hand with their arms straight out and one between their feet for 33 minutes (one minute for each year of Jesus’s life). It was dark outside, we were at the lake and there was praise and worship music in the background. Many of the kids said they got tired and wanted to drop their arms but then they’d think about the agony He went through for us and it really put it into perspective.
This was the highlight of the weekend for many.

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Coffee House At Camp

Good activity for the final night at a camp/retreat is to have a coffee house program. At the beginning of the camp, divide the kids into groups of about 7 each. Ask each group to develop a coffee house presentation such as drama, singing, reading, etc. During the coffee house, each group will have the opportunity to make its presentation. Set up for the coffee house by covering the tables with white paper. If the tables can be folded, place them on the floor in the shape of a circle. Have the campers bring their sleeping bags, and blankets to sit or lie upon in front of the tables. Use candles on the tables for light. Have juice and donuts, and popcorn for refreshment. Begin with singing and guitar music. Let each group make its presentation. Close with a time of sharing and prayer.

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Creative Weekend Retreats

Some interesting ideas:
1.) Times of silence (after an evening meeting for a couple of hours)
2.) Weekend of study: fellowship and everyone gets their homework done. Everyone brings homework, terms papers etc.
3.) Minority Weekend: Give group a glimpse of prejudice. Divide the group into 2 sub-groups. Each sub-group plays the role of a minority for half of the weekend.

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Free Time Retreat

Kids seem to love free time at retreats. Try giving them a full free day. Let them know the day before that they can do exactly as they like. When everyone gets up in the morning, they’ll discover that the cooks were also free and there’s no breakfast. They’ll hopefully form groups to get things done. Everything will be a group decision. They’ll learn that discipline is essential, especially in youth groups. *** I think a youth leader may be needed to help get things off the ground just in case chaos develops. Plan in advance for such an occasion.

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Lasting Memories

For large retreats: Buy or make books and put a prayer or poem on the cover – for each retreatant. Put retreatants name on the book and at the first part of the retreat explain to the students that the books are to be left in the room but that they should take the time to write in each book an honest and helpful note to the person who has their name on the book. Everyone should take the time to write in each book. This will greatly help each teen feel more a part of the group. This is especially good for a fall retreat when everyone is new.

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Letter From Home

Before a retreat, contact parents a couple weeks ahead of time to notify them to write a letter to their son or daughter, which will be read by their kid at the retreat. The kids should have no idea that this is being done. The letter can include encouragement, love, and other things people usually don’t find the time to say in their busy lives. We’ve found that the best time to do this is the morning that we are headed back home, because the kids are generally in a tired but calm and reflective mood. Hand out the letters and instruct the kids to find a space of their own to read the letter to themselves (doing this outside is nice). These letters can really open up communication with adolescents and their parents, and let them know that they really care. This is a great activity for high schoolers, where tension with their parents can run very high.

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Third World Weekend

This idea is planned for this spring and has already sparked a lot of interest.
The youth will be instructed to meet at our church ballfield with only a blanket, the clothes they have on and a Bible. They will also be instructed to come barefooted.
We will make cardboard and twine shoes.
The first day will be spent going to church members’ houses to get cardboard or anything to build a shelter with, this will be their weekend lodging. We will have food hid in various locations to be found by the youth.
Illustrations will be used such as Paul’s missionary travels. This retreat will be twofold: #1 to teach the youth how others live not just in other countries but also in the USA. #2 to let the youth know that they can have fun in fellowship without worldly commodities. As a new youth minister I look for new ways to enlighten the youth and build on the foundation of Christ centered fellowship.

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Belly Up Bible Retreat

Well, this is based on the book and story of Jonah.
You go into a place, can be in the church building or in a house, depending on the size of your group.
You get the kids to bring flashlights, sleeping bags, pillows, food and drinks, and most importantly, their Bible.
You turn out the lights, and you spend 24 hours in the dark. You spend this time studying Jonah, playing games related to that book, and doing other things you can in the dark. Allowing the kids to sleep any time they need to and awaking when they feel like it.
Do NOT allow watches or clocks in the building. Choose a room close to a bathroom.
Get someone to agree to get the group when the 24 hours are finished.
This is a good way to get a slight idea of how Jonah might have felt.

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